Senator Introduces “Do-Not-Track” Bill Saying Industry Failed To Protect Consumers Voluntarily

Far from sitting on his laurels as an outgoing Congressman, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia is gearing up to go out with a blaze of consumer advocacy. He’s set to retire at the end of next year after championing consumers during his career, but before then will be working on the “Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013,” a bill he introduced yesterday.

The bill is an attempt to give consumers a better handle on their personal data and how it’s collected online, and would require the Federal Trade Commission to set up an established process within Internet browsers that tells the various online entities if they want their data mined or not.

That means any Web sites, advertising networks or data brokers, notes the New York Times. Basically anything you come in contact with on the Internet that wants the keys to your personal information kingdom.

It’d also make the FTC set up rules banning online services from collecting information about the people who had opted out of such a tracking, which seems like a moot point if they’ve already told those entities they don’t want to be tracked.

This isn’t Rockefeller’s first time at the rodeo with this bill — he attempted it two years ago but didn’t get too pushy because the industry had promised it’d set up voluntary systems to work with don-not-track flags in browsers. The two sides were supposed to talk things out but that isn’t happening, which is why Rockefeller is moving forward now.

So how did the industry think this would be accomplished? Its preferred opt-out method involved consumers having to go to the YourAdChoices program and selecting from a list of several hundred companies which ones they didn’t want marketing from. In contrast, the Do-Not-Track signals would let users make a one-time decision about any and all online tracking from their browsers.

That isn’t going to cut it, says Rockefeller. Can’t get something done, you’ve gotta do it yourself.

“The privacy of Americans is increasingly under assault as more and more of their daily lives are conducted online,” Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wrote on Thursday in an e-mail sent to the NYT. “Industry made a public pledge to develop do-not-track standards that will truly protect consumer privacy — and it has failed to live up to that commitment. They have dragged their feet long enough.”

Senator Seeks More Data Rights for Online Consumers [New York Times]